Rural health funding should be better targeted: RDAA

THE Rural Doctors Association of Australia has an unusual request for Treasurer Wayne Swan ahead of the Federal Budget - it is not asking for extra money.

RDAA president Sheilagh Cronin said the budget did not need to be about "pouring billions" of additional cash into rural health.

Instead, existing federal funding needed to be better targeted in proven, cost-effective rural health initiatives, she said.

Such a step was needed, she said, to help rural practices which were under "significant pressure".

"In tight fiscal times, it is not really about putting a lot more money into rural health, but achieving more with the money you've got," Dr Cronin said.

"Rural general practice provides a very cost-effective means of delivering health services in rural communities.

"These practices deliver an extremely wide range of health services in their towns, including comprehensive general practice care and allied healthcare.

"They are also, in many cases, teaching practices for GP registrars and medical students."

She said more doctors would be more open to the idea of "going rural" if they were offered a professionally supportive environment and offered improved financial incentives.

The RDAA, in its federal budget submission, calls on the government to support several key initiatives including:

  • A national approach to training a tailor-made, high quality medical workforce to meet the specific needs of rural and remote communities;
  • Grants and financial incentives for rural practice that are evidence-based and that direct incentives and supports to the areas of greatest need; support for an economic framework for sustainable rural medical practices, and;
  • A co-ordinated, national approach to assessing, training, supporting and supervising overseas trained doctors working in rural and remote areas.

"These initiatives do not have to be a budget-buster for the Government" Dr Cronin said.

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